p2pnet news | RIAA News:- One of the most important, but as yet largely unrecognized, Big Music stories to break this year centres on a small university legal clinic in Maine.
And, it’s about to cause a revolution in the P2P filesharing war launched by Warner Music, EMI, Vivendi Universal and Sony BMG, p2pnet posted just before Christmas, going on:
“In what’s probably a world’s first, not lawyers, but student attorneys at the University of Maine School of Law’s Cumberland Legal Aid Clinic have themselves taken up the fight on behalf of fellow students.
“Hannah Ames and Lisa Chmelecki from the Cumberland clinic are now officially representing two Maine students.
“Ames and Chmelecki are being guided by clinic director and U of M associate professor Deirdre Smith.”
“This could be the true beginning of the end for the RIAA in its attempts to bring students to heel, turning them into compliant consumers of corporate product under threat of legal persecution and severe financial penalties no student can afford.”
Below, Smith tells p2pnet readers what the Cumberland Legal Aid Clinic is all about >>>
The Cumberland Legal Aid Clinic is a program of the University of Maine School of Law providing third-year law students with the opportunity to practice law under the close supervision of members of the faculty.
Under Maine court rules, students who meet certain eligibility requirements can be certified as ‘student attorneys’ and appear before federal and state courts on behalf of clients.
Students are the lawyers on their cases and are responsible for all aspects of the representation including working with clients and the opposing party or opposing counsel, discovery, drafting pleadings and motions, and appearing in court for hearings, trials and other proceedings. Faculty supervisors provide extensive guidance, support and mentoring, co-sign all pleadings, and accompany students to court. Students in our program work on cases in a wide variety of areas including family law, criminal law, domestic violence, juvenile law, and miscellaneous civil cases.
Our clients are all low-income and therefore unable to afford an attorney. Indeed, for most of our clients, they would not have the assistance of an attorney at all if the Clinic did not help them.
We got involved in the RIAA litigation here in Maine when we were contacted by a student seeking legal help after receiving notice from the University of Maine that s/he had been named as one of the ‘Does’ in the latest round of litigation brought against students here in Maine and that the plaintiffs had served a subpoena on the University of Maine to disclose his/her identity.
Another student in the same situation contacted us soon thereafter. We accepted the case for a variety of reasons. We are foremost an educational program that teaches law students how to be trial lawyers, and we saw the case as providing an excellent opportunity for our students. In many respects, the case represents a very different sort of matter from the ones we generally take on.
Students rarely have the opportunity to work on cases in federal court, for example, and therefore this case provides them with the chance to develop their litigation skills in that challenging forum.
Also, this case may well be one of the first intellectual property cases that the Clinic has taken on in its history. IP is a growing and important field in which many students have expressed an interest, and we were glad to provide them with the opportunity to develop their knowledge in that area. If the case proceeds, we expect to draw on the considerable expertise in IP among members of our faculty and the Maine Center for Law and Innovation, another program of the Law School.
These cases may be a particularly good fit for law school clinical programs because student attorneys are generally younger than most practicing attorneys and likely to be more familiar with the technology involved with these cases. It is also beneficial for the student-defendants to be able to work with an advocate who is closer to them in age; they can build a rapport and trust more easily than perhaps with older attorneys.
I would also add that our students are quite enthusiastic about being directly connected to a case with a national scope and significance, as well as having the chance to help fellow students in a positive and important way.
In other respects, however, this case is no different from the hundreds of others we take each year in that our clients have a legal problem but cannot afford an attorney. Indeed, in this case, our clients face even greater potential financial liability than most of our other clients.
Since the clients in these file-sharing cases are so young, they may have little or no understanding of the legal system or their rights, and are usually overwhelmed by the prospect of being liable for statutory damages. Therefore, they are particularly ill-prepared to represent themselves.
For these reasons as well, we regarded this case as ideally serving our dual mission of providing hand-on training for future attorneys while also providing much-needed representation to clients who would otherwise be unable to afford an attorney.
Will the Maine case show other US universities with law programs, besieged by RIAA threats and extortion letters, a way to help both their own students and perhaps people at other schools, at the same time providing invaluable and highly relevant training?
And for anyone who’s thinking students won’t be up to par, “An experienced practicing lawyer, I reviewed the brief prepared by student attorneys Hannah Ames and Lisa Chmelecki, under professor Smith’s supervision, and these young people did a bang-up job in exposing the fact that the RIAA has no case,” Recording Industry vs The People‘s Ray Beckerman told me, going on:
“I think this is a very important development, and may represent a turning point in the RIAA’s unlawful campaign against college and university students.
“The RIAA’s campaign employs a false legal theory, nonexistent evidence, illegal ‘ex parte’ practices to catch the students off guard, and improper joinder of unrelated cases, to make it economically and practically impossible for the students to fight back.
“By taking up their cause, university law school legal clinics can make an important contribution to copyright jurisprudence at this historic time, and allow the cases to be decided on their merits, rather than on default.
“The Cumberland Legal Aid Clinic of the University of Maine has taken an historic first step. I believe many others will follow, and that the RIAA’s litigation campaign will be altered by this new and important addition to the ranks of the defenders.”
As I said in our first post on this, “If other student from clinics not only in the US but around the world follow the examples of Ames and Chmelecki, the stage will be set for a series of confrontations and lightning strikes even the highly paid expert Big 4 legal teams won’t be able to handle.”
Definitely stay tuned.
ALSO SEE > Maine law students and RIAA: II
Jon Newton - p2pnet
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